Remembering businesses of long ago

Published 8:56 pm Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Reading that story about the passing of Maxine Weber Geiser brought memories of those 1940-1950 Mobile businesses that were so popular to all of us when we went to that city to trade.

This highly industrious lady owned and operated a Mobile landmark, so to speak, known as Weber’s Department Store. There were several other well-known firms we traded with back then. Kresses was one of them. I suppose you could identify this store as Mobile’s main “anchor” store. Everything under the sun could be found there. Clothing, small furniture, household items and you name it, were there. In later years, The Tiny Diner became a favorite eating spot.

My parents bought my first Boy Scout uniform at Harry’s Men’s World, a well-stocked men’s and boys’ clothing store. Danzigers was another popular clothing store where you could find just about anything for the entire family. Mobile Rug and Shade sold household items of every description and The Battle House Hotel, an exquisite downtown hotel, offered affordable seafood “specials” at lunchtime.

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We listened to WALA Radio and heard those smooth announcers like Ross Smitherman, Jim McNamara, Al Holman, Vern Benson and our own Reverend Dewitt Allen, whose voice was so consonant. WKRG radio came on the scene later and they featured a morning personality known as “Plowhandle Bill.”

In the 1950s-1970s we enjoyed those unique Dauphin Street sandwich shops, known as Tanners. They served all type of ready-made sandwiches and freshly squeezed cold orange juice drinks.

We watched those fishermen in waist deep waters of Mobile Bay as we entered and departed the city wondering how far out they could go before water began filling those rubber dons. Even the first ride through the “tunnel” brought thrills when it opened in the 1940s. And a first time trip to Mardi Gras parades back then was spine tingling.

Some of us remember the clanging of busy electric trolley cars transporting passengers to all points of the city. It was not too long ago we saw old tracks still in tact in the city where the trolleys traveled.

Now, with the advent of Airbus, we are told expansion will be almost unbelievable to comprehend. The addition of this giant, world-renowned firm will possibly create the need for additional skyscrapers in the city. That’s just how enormous Airbus will be.

Jobs should be plentiful when production gets underway and those who have been trained properly, either through college or trade school, will benefit from it greatly.

Now let’s take a look at some local news from years past. In 1970 the old L&N depot was dismantled to make way for additional parking near City Hall. Following Amtrak’s debut, a modern mini depot was built and still stands today. By the way, Allan Thomas, a well informed advocate for restoring passenger rail service to our area continues in his efforts to make this happen. Even when his efforts are somewhat thwarted he spearheads a group of three state enthusiasts whose aims are to make this a reality. It would be nice to see those “whistlestops” resume as stately trains similar to the old “Hummingbird” would dot our scene again.

Will Adams celebrated his 120th birthday that year. Born in 1850, he was entertained on one occasion by many including Mayor Tom Byrne, who presented him a plaque from the city. The Atmore Advance featured him in a story where he expounded on his joyful days of employment with Swift-Hunter Lumber Company, W.T. Smith Lumber Company and Carney Mill Company.

Betty Kemp Farrar was selected Miss 1970 Cotton Maid and Joe Latham, Ernest Ward head football coach, was elected spokesman for North Florida District One Coaches Association. Managers and coaches for Little League teams included Gene Akins, Bobby Middleton, Roger Dixon, Bill McMurray, Tom Bradberry, M. L. Ledkins, William Gorum and Mickey Kemmer.

Cotton growers had a banner year then. Bratt’s A.D. Sanders brought in the first bale for Atmore Milling and Elevator Company. Claude Peacock produced the first bale for Atmore Truckers and Mrs. J.R. Crowley and her farm manager, Johnny Dread, grew the initial bale for Frank Currie Gin.

Our Pink Lady this week is Hazel Brown Hall. After successful full time employment with the health department and Green Lawn Hospital, she has been with the Ladies Auxiliary for several months now. Her husband of fifty years was Heron Hall, a successful businessman and active leader in our Little League programs. The mother of three beautiful daughters and several adorable grandchildren, Hazel says she wants to do “all I can to be of service to others.”  And, she is doing just that; serving faithfully in a respected capacity with Atmore’s Pink Ladies.

I will have more news of Atmore’s people, places and events next week.

Lowell McGill